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You Better Recognize the Jewish State

But who is a Jew? A morning with Danny Ayalon

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Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.(Daniel Bar-On/AFP/Getty Images)

Last night, something fairly unprecedented happened in New York: The Palestinian Authority’s nominal top two figures, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, attended two separate dinner events organized by prominent American Jewish figures to discuss how eager they are to strike a final peace agreement with the Israelis. Unfortunately, the dinners followed an episode that was, well, entirely with precedent: A meeting for international donors to the P.A., held on the sidelines of this week’s United Nations General Assembly, ended abruptly because of a dispute between Fayyad and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. What was the problem? Words, of course—specifically, Fayyad’s refusal to accept Ayalon’s demand that the group’s press release declare support for “two states for two peoples.”

This morning, Ayalon, speaking before yet a third group of American Jewish leaders (as well as reporters, including this one), excused himself by saying the episode revealed a “cultural” gulf between the Israelis and the Palestinians that transcends the more obvious, and immediate, stumbling block to the fledgling peace negotiations—namely, this Sunday’s expiration of the ten-month-long moratorium on new construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. “I didn’t say ‘two states for two peoples, Jews and Palestinians,’” Ayalon explained. “But if they don’t have the decency to talk about two states for two peoples, then there is a major problem here.”

Well. Since Ayalon proceeded to repeat almost word-for-word the formulation Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who remains in Jerusalem, used last weekend to call on Abbas to recognize the Jewish state—that he needs to say it not in English or in Hebrew but in Arabic, “to his own people in their own language”—we can probably assume that there’s a concerted strategy to introduce the notion that, if the talks do collapse, it’s not just because of Israeli intransigence on the settlement issue.

But here is where the chickens of this summer’s heated debate over Israel’s proposed new conversion bill have come home to roost: It’s difficult to tell non-Orthodox American Jews that they should back an Israeli negotiating position predicated on drawing a clear line between Jews and everyone else when their own Jewishness has recently been viciously called into question by Israeli leaders, including those of Ayalon’s own Yisrael Beiteinu Party, and Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar.

So almost as the words came out of his mouth, Ayalon—who was standing squarely opposite Rabbi Julie Schoenfeld, head of the Conservative movement, sitting with her arms crossed—seemed to realize this inevitable rebuttal. Hands shot up, with their owners eager to press the question, “A Jewish state … for whom?” “Well,” said Ayalon, a former ambassador to the U.S. and a reasonably agile politician, “Israel is not just for Israelis, it’s for the Jewish people.” He tried to extend an olive branch, saying his party would gladly solicit ideas from Reform and Conservative leaders. But he stumbled over Schoenfeld’s name, calling her Rabbi Schoenberg instead. She didn’t reply, but simply nodded and gave a Cheshire cat-like smile.

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Ayalon and Lieberman are quite the diplomatic dynamic duo. Did Danny ask one of the prominent American Jewish leaders to sit on a low stool? That seems to be one of his favorite methods for making a point.

Good for Danny Ayalon. It’s about time we stopped apologizing for our existence.
Someone should explain to the Palestinians that the side who lost the war doesn’t get to dictate the terms of the peace settlement.

I can’t understand the inanity of the left that somehow the Israelis are wrong for demanding that Israel be recognized as a Jewish State. What also does the conversion bill have to do with the issue? The issue is that the Arabs are trying to use the peace negotiations to destroy Israel by making ISrael an anachronism, taking away its Jewish character and turning it into a majority Arab nation. One state-two-people. It is insulting that somehow the Arabs feel that THEY and not the Jews are the ones to define what Israel will or will not be.You guys really need to get a grip and see the issues for what they are. What is between the Jews and the stupidity of the conversion bill has nothing to do with the right of the Jewish people to their own state, the right to define themselves and its not up to our enemies to tell us whether or not we can survive.Its also not up to the UN and the US State Department or the US DOJ/DOE to define who the Jewish people are, and by the way they all describe the Jewish people not as an ethnicity and a seperate people/culture but only as aa religion. You really need to understand the stakes and the fight that is truly important at this time.

Jehudah Ben-Israel says:

Until and unless the Muslim-Arab leadership, local and regional, accepts Israel’s very legitimacy, its RIGHT to be, to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and that based on historic, ethical and legal grounds, little hope is left for a peace treaty!!!

And, in addition, since the Muslim-Arabs, through their leadership, refuse to view a peace treaty as the “end of the conflict” and an “end of all demands”, why should anyone trust their actual long-term intentions and give in to their demands…??

The Jewish people, through its nation-state of Israel, has paid a very dear price to date in order to bring an accommodation of peaceful coexistence between Arab and Jew, between the Muslim-Arab world and the nation-sate of the Jewish people. Yet, the Muslim-Arabs continue to refuse to make the simple declarative statement that their opponent, a UN member state that came into being based on the UN’s call to set up a “Jewish state” can’t bring themselves to accept Israel as such.

Why be optimistic, and why pretend that peace is achievable instantly if only…?? Let us not pretend…!!

It took Israelis a while to recognize the Palestinians’ right to national self-determination. But most Israelis do now recognize it, and the question now is whether the Palestinians recognize the right of the Jewish People to national self-determination. This is important, because if they don’t recognize it, what they’re basically saying is that they want to determine not only their own state’s character, but that of the other state (Israel) in the two-state solution as well. Israeli scholars like Shlomo Avineri have written about this in Haaretz, and he’s by no means a Rightist. But Ayalon & Netanyahu _are_ Rightists, so somehow this has to be connected to the conversion bill (which is a stupid bill, but utterly, utterly unrelated.) Give me a break.

Tablet and those associated have managed to generate a ton of readership by making a total non-story – the conversion bill that will likely affect the lives of 0 non-Orthodox Jews in any negative way – into the biggest atrocity committed by the Jews since we killed Jesus. I’m not impressed.

Paul Freedman says:

Allison deliberately misses the forest for some pretty small shoots. Differences over conversion in Israel aside, the Palestinian Authority resists recognizing Israel as a Jewish state not out of deference for or indeed not in any connection to the disputes over the relatively minuscule number of non-Orthodox converts attempting to immigrate to Israel, but due to the irredentist inability of Fatah (let alone Hamas) to recognize the Jewish people as having a legitimate history linking them to the Holy Land in any other mode than false and satanic European outsiders.

It is regrettable that the Tablet prominently puts its editorial imprimatur behing this pseudo-sophisticated mumbo jumbo that expends its energy in scoring gnat-sized debater’s points intended to demonstrate that Israeli governments do not actually want peace and that it is precisely the PLO and J-Street who realize that peace must be crammed down the Israeli people’s throats.

It is mind-numbingly jejune to claim that “the chickens of this summer’s heated debate over Israel’s proposed new conversion bill have come home to roost” to justify the PLO’s refusal so far to definitely commit to ending the conflict between itself and Israel, in order to keep alive the irredentist dream of swamping Israel with a wave of Palestinian refugees, dissolving it into a larger Arabic and Islamic polity. Just as it is risible to ignore that AIPAC is truly a membership organization that represents a broad social base of American Jews and J Street is an astro turf salon that represents a tiny demographic of progressive Jewish princes, George Soros, and , yes, that mystery women companion to the vitally crucial sector of expatriate horse touters.


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You Better Recognize the Jewish State

But who is a Jew? A morning with Danny Ayalon

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